Eurydice March 8, Judy Bayley Theatre
Nevada Conservatory Theatre went with a modern take on a classic tale to create a production for the ages. The company’s recent production, Eurydice, by Sarah Ruhl, was an achingly beautiful production shot through with elemental joy and grief.
Eurydice retells the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice from Eurydice’s point of view. In Ruhl’s adaptation, Eurydice (played by Stefanie Resnick) loves Orpheus (Ryan Dougherty), the half-man, half-god composer. She dies on her wedding day, and Orpheus, stricken with grief, descends to the underworld to retrieve her. Even though his beautiful song convinces the Lord of the underworld (Stephon Pettway) to let her go back, there’s one final condition: Orpheus must not look back at her as he walks out of hell, or he will lose her again. He does, and the multiple layers of loss that wind throughout the ending of the play left me weeping in my seat.
Multiple layers, because Ruhl plays with the myth by adding the character of Eurydice’s Father in hell, played with tenderness by Brian Mani. His scenes with Resnick, as he teaches her how to regain her power of speech, who she is and what the love of a father means, were touching and profound. He managed to convey pride, love and joy merely by acting like a tree to provide shade for his daughter to lie in. Dougherty and Resnick’s relationship felt a little choppy, but their final parting—complete with frustrations and longing—was powerful. Stephon Pettway was comedic and sly as the Lord; and Galina Vasileva, Kayla Gaar and Kelly Hawes, as a chorus of stones, were delightfully petulant.
Eurydice allows theatricality to take the place of language, and this production was excellently guided by Laura Gordon. The show had several stage pictures that will stay with me: the sweeping lights of Orpheus knocking on the doors to the underworld; Father creating a “room” for Eurydice out of string while she plays hopscotch; light shining up through the slats in the wooden path as Eurydice and Orpheus walk out of hell. Ian Mangum’s set was moody and elegant, Josh Lentner’s lighting brought emotion and surprises and Jennifer Van Buskirk’s costumes were whimsical, romantic and stately when needed.
Even though love may be eternal, theater is ephemeral. This might have been a fleeting production, but the images and emotions will last with me for years.